Published by Berkley
Publication date: October 2nd 2012
Octavio met his beloved wife, Salomé, when she was 17, attending a convent school. He wooed her relentlessly despite her family’s objections to his low status and lack of any real means of supporting her. They marry anyway and with his good looks and charisma Octavio goes on to become one of the most well-known movie stars in Chile. Their life is blessed with three beautiful children, a lovely home, and social connections that reach all the way to the government when Octavio is asked to help Salvador Allende polish his speaking skills in order to win the presidency. These connections are a source of tremendous pride to Octavio until the coup that overthrows Allende and brings Pinochet into power. At that time he becomes a vociferous and vocal opponent of Pinochet despite their overtures for his support of their regime.
This is the set-up for The Rhythm of Memory, Alyson Richman’s interesting novel on the nature of love and relationships. When Octavio will not stop speaking out, Pinochet’s secret police do not take him but kidnap Salomé instead. She is returned after six hours, frightened and beaten. She asks Octavio to stop his public speaking against Pinochet and he replies,
“How can I do that, my love?” he said, now looking up at me, “How can I support someone who is capable of such brutality? Who can do what they did to you and Allende. How can I do that?”
With no change in Octavio, Salomé is kidnapped again and this time held for two months at what is known to be a center for the torture of political opponents of Pinochet. When she is finally released, thanks to sustained efforts on Octavio’s part and veiled threats to a general, the family leaves Chile and is given political asylum in Sweden, but the damage is done. Salomé cannot speak of her experience and is largely lost to her family. Only after much encouragement does she seek help from a therapist who specializes in victims of torture. It is in these sessions that she begins to open up and acknowledge the painful and conflicting feelings that haunt her as well as the physical horrors of what she suffered.
‘Is it so difficult’, she would wonder to herself, ‘for him to acknowledge that he wronged me in Chile? Is it too much of a struggle for him to say that he’s sorry?’ If only he could love and care for her wholly, as a woman who had endured something terrible because of his actions.
The Rhythm of Memory covers a subject most people never have to face—the actions of a loved one bringing retribution down, not on that person, but on innocent family members. Where does one go from there? Can a relationship be salvaged? Richman handles the story with delicacy, expanding the characters involved to include the therapist who helps Salomé, Samuel Rudin, and his unique wife, Kaija. With each character she explores the richness of love and the pain, giving a voice to each.